Ladies and Gentlemen of Steelers’ Nation let me introduce you to your new “most hated player on the opposition….” Mr. Vontaze Burfict!
You’ll note that I’ve used his last name in the title because it rhymes with “perfect.” While the performance itself was far from perfect the outcome was as perfect as could be despite the officials best attempts to allow Burfict to dictate how this game would be played.
The 33-20 win allows the Steelers to stay in a tie with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs who all have 8-5 records with three games remaining. While the offense relied on more field goals than any of us would have preferred and the defense again showed us they struggle to cover anyone, they still got the win and that’s all that matters.
While much of the story will surround the fractured thumb of Andy Dalton, any Steelers’ fan who paid a lick of attention to this game is no doubt wondering what a guy has to do draw a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. For that matter, what more does a guy need to do to get tossed from a game?
Make no mistake, the NFL has seen its’ share of instigators and bad guys for over 80 years but Vontaze Burfict’s behavior was ridiculous. Twice before the game even started he instigated shoving matches with Steelers’ players and nothing was done.
From the first whistle until four minutes remained, Burfict continued his poking and prodding of the Steelers’ offensive players until he was finally flagged 15 yards when the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt. Why the officials allowed his behavior to go unchecked for almost 60 minutes is beyond me.
The Steelers weren’t without guilt – they had plenty of guys acting like idiots at times – Mike Mitchell and William Gay please raise your hands, but this was about Burfict because it went all. Game. Long.
Pittsburgh heads home for their final home game of the season against the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos and if today was a must-win then so is next week. The win today has to feel just a little bit more special and not just because it was the Bengals or because it was on their home turf.
Beating a guy like Burfict who doesn’t know when to quit adds just a little more satisfaction to an already satisfying win.